📚Noisy Deadlines

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."- Douglas Adams

Tomorrow I’ll be back to working at the office full time. I’ve been working from home since April 5th, 2021 now. And before that, it was 30 days at home in January/February. So it was a total of 86 days working from home in 2021 or almost 60% of the total days.

I don’t hate working from home, on the contrary, I think it’s refreshing. Maybe if I lived someplace bigger with a dedicated office to work on, I would say I could never go back to a corporate office environment again. But the industry I work in doesn’t really appreciate remote work. On the contrary, my company believes that remote work can’t and will never build “the corporate culture”. They’ve given the employees the means to work from home during the worst of the pandemic when we were in lockdown. But deep down, most managers deeply hated it.

After the first lockdown period, where everybody was working from home, the senior managers of my company decided that they can’t do it, so they came back to the office. So for a long time they were the “skeleton crew” at the office while the rest of the team was at home, trying to deal with all the challenges that this new arrangement brought. I mention this because, for some period of time when schools and daycares were closed, it was painful to watch my co-workers trying to be in a meeting with their kids wanting their attention. Everybody was stressed, nobody could keep the same productivity levels, and still, the senior managers were demanding the same level of compromise. For them, the world was normal. They were quietly working in their individual offices, not having to face the working-from-home challenge.

And now I’m getting back to the office. I got the first dose of the COVID vaccine already, and the company is keeping all the restrictions to avoid the spread of the virus (rapid testing 3x/week, mandatory use of masks, virtual meetings). That’s not the issue. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen tomorrow, and I felt extremely anxious about it. It’s like I’m being forced out of my cocoon. Maybe I thought this process would be more gradual, like working a few days at home then a few days at the office, until all came back to “normal”.

There is something about this situation that bothers me: the fact that there will be no openness to “occasional” remote work after we get back to working “normally” at the office. I think in some industries there have been discussions over having flexible working arrangements from now on. And I think that is a cool option to have. I don’t think that is going to happen within my company.

I’ve developed some habits that help me cope with stress, like meditating early in the afternoon or whenever I feel something triggered me, taking 15 minutes breaks to read a book, or just stopping and breathing some fresh air on my balcony.

I’m wondering how am I going to keep these habits at the office. It seems harder over there. Meditating? Pfff… I’ll probably have to use the lady’s room. We’ll see!

#noisymusings #work #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

To get out of a reading slump I focused this month on reading some light romance novels. And it worked! I read 3 non-fiction books, and one of them was extremely helpful to me: The Getting Things Done Workbook.

  1. The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1) by Julia Quinn, 384p: I was curious to read this book because of the Netflix series. I haven't watched the show but I've heard some blurbs about it. And, I had fun reading it, for the most part. I thought the build-up romance was well done in the beginning. I enjoyed the funny dialogues between the two main protagonists. But there was something weird about the female main character. Daphne was portrayed as being smart for the local regency standards. We hear her saying that she was raised with 4 brothers, so she knew everything about rakes and swear words. She's in her 20's, and then we find out that she didn't know how babies are made? And she didn't have a clue what happens to “consummate a marriage”? That threw me off a little bit, suddenly she wasn't as smart as I'd thought. And the conundrum of the Duke, Simon, falling for her and not wanting to marry her because of his issues with siring heirs that was also related to his issues with his late father... anyway. I prefer historical romance when the characters break with the status quo of the time. When they question cultural norms. And in this one the female character, Daphne, achieves her dream of marrying and having a family, changing the Duke's opinion about being a father. They live happily ever after. The end. So, I was enjoying it in the beginning but then it turned to be bleh in the end

  2. A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole, 360p: Light and fun romance, with a smart black woman working in STEM research. I had to use my suspension of disbelief to accept the male character being a spoiled rich prince with a good heart (and not an asshole). It has that “fairy tale” feel to it when some things are too good to be true. But, hey, it's fantasy, and it made me smile.

  3. Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style by Carson Tate, 304p: This book brings various productivity strategies based on what the author calls personal productivity styles. There is a questionnaire to help us identify what is our primary style. There are tips on how to write emails, how to manage emails, meeting strategies, task management, note-taking tips. But the core of getting organized is very similar to what is presented in David Allen's “Getting Things Done” method. The good-old “capture, clarify, organize, do”. Some things I think were overgeneralized according to the productivity style, like linking a person's style to how she decorates her office.

  4. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil, 254p: Excellent discussion on how the use of algorithms is affecting our education system, how likely are we to be hired, how much we pay for insurance and mortgages. These models have become black boxes that nobody knows exactly how they work but are considered reliable. What few people realize is that these algorithms are reinforcing discrimination and have biases built in them. So, instead of a fair objective system to evaluate whatever (loan approvals, credit scores, job candidates, school teacher's performance, etc), we have opaque models being applied everywhere that cannot be disputed or even understood. It's scary to think that our future life decisions will rely on algorithms.

  5. The Getting Things Done Workbook by David Allen & Brandon Hall, 224p: This book was on my radar for a couple of months and this month I felt I needed a GTD refresher so I picked it up. I loved it! It's totally action-oriented: perfect for people who have already read the Getting Things Done original book. I enjoyed how it presented the 10 Moves going through all the 5 Steps in order. I learned a lot from it! I realized I was overcomplicating my system and the exercises put me back on track.

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

#flowers #photo #spring


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

And then anxiety… physical manifestations include light dizziness, butterflies in my belly, light-headed, sweating and even light nausea.

I started this CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and every week I find out more about my thoughts. I never judge or analyze my thoughts. I like talking with myself. So I never realized some of those talks were feeding my anxiety. I just thought I was super organized and liked to have my life under control. And I do. My partner sometimes calls me a “control freak”, in a good way. I’m the organizer and planner of the house. But something happened this past year (maybe it starts with PAN…) that destabilized my planning tendencies.

I’m feeling constantly overwhelmed these days. Especially at work. I can’t close my email tab for fear of missing out on important information and task requests from my manager. I feel like I have to be online and available all the time. If my manager calls me on my mobile and I don’t answer in 3 rings, I think he thinks I’m slacking off at home. I've been having thoughts and thoughts, ruminating on my last phone call conversation, and worrying about all the tasks I still have to finish. I fear my to-do list. It’s scary. I’m having trouble taking notes and deciding what to do next. It seems my work responsibilities are screaming at me all the time and it’s “go, go, go!”.

But I don’t want to go. I want to reflect. I want to breathe…. and then a deadline is coming in 24 hours so I fear it, I don’t stop to take a breath… and boom… anxiety.

On my CBT session today I was doing that exercise about Core Beliefs. The one you try to identify a core belief by completing the phrases: “I am…”, “Others are…”, “The world is…”, “The future is…”. When I got to think about what the world is, my answer was: “The world is cruel and merciless”. My feeling is that the world keeps throwing tasks at me without caring if I can handle them. The world doesn’t care about my feelings. Does it? Anyhow, the point I want to make is that this thought “the world is cruel” seemed so extreme! I was surprised by it. And the consequence is “The future is exhausting”. At least inside my head. What an anxiety-inducing place to be! 😶

So, I will be challenging these beliefs. And I will write about it. I am convinced my thoughts are helping with the overwhelmedness (is that a word?). I’ve never done any type of therapy before and I’m learning a lot.

Less overwhelmed days are coming…

#journal #noisymusings #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in April 2021

This month I abandoned a book. I started reading it, I thought it was not too interesting but I insisted until I got to 40%. Then I gave up. Life is too short. It was actually one of my local Book Club picks. It was the first time I attended a book club meeting without having finished a book. And it was fine! A couple of other participants couldn't finish it either, so I didn't feel that bad. That being said, I read three books this month. And all of them were exactly what I needed: fun!

  1. Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher: This book is extremely fast-paced. It's non-stop and Harry Dresden shows himself as a guy with extreme endurance. He really gets beat up on this one, but he always gets up in the end. It has the two best potion recipes of all times: the Stimulant “Pick me up” potion (base liquid is coffee) and the Blending potion, to make him imperceptible to a werewolf. I had fun!
  2. The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency, #1) by John Scalzi, 336p: I love a space opera, especially when it's character-driven. Lots of snarky dialogues, great characters and worldbuilding that is not boring. I was pleasantly surprised by all the strong female characters. Kiva Lagos is awesome if you don't mind all the swearing. I could see lots of parallels from the Interdependency world with ours. It's that same old story: one family or group of people creates some myth/prophecy about the world in which skewed power relations are defined to justify the maintenance of the said world/society. This book is rich with political intrigue, commercial embargoes, power succession and environmental changes. I enjoyed the ride and I want to spend more time with the characters, so I'll read the next one.
  3. Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz, 304p: Fascinating to know how data archeology is helping us understand a little bit more about our ancient history. This book explores four sites: Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman town of Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia in the U.S. The book brings history to life by trying to imagine what was it like to be a regular citizen of these places: labourers, women, immigrants, slaves. Super entertaining and informative.

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

For the past month, I've been having overloaded days at work. It has disrupted my routine, my downtime and my sleep. Handling many projects at a time with deadlines within a couple of weeks is not easy! And although I have a productivity system in place, I organize my day, I have routines and I take notes... things started to fall through the cracks. And I caught myself having to work after-hours to finish things. And sometimes I do work a little bit more, let's say once a month before an important deadline. But what happened last week was insane. I was working extra 4-5 hours for 3 days in a row! And that took a toll on my health. By Friday I was lightheaded, sleepy, anxious, brain fogged, exhausted and with a headache... My right shoulder started hurting again (it usually happens if I spend too much time doing intensive mouse work on the computer). I thought I got rid of this pain... but it's back.

I couldn't prioritize anything, I couldn't organize my notes, I couldn't even take a break. Whenever I stopped to try and breathe I started worrying about the things I was not doing. That's anxiety, right?

Anyway, I've been focusing on some habits to get back on track. It takes time, I can't recover in a couple of days. It takes time for me to get back to my baseline. My self-care focus is:

  1. Sleep. Get as much sleep as possible. But still keeping the same wake-up time. I noticed that when I sleep in I wake up feeling like crap and then all my morning routine is easily put aside.
  2. Meditation. 10 minutes in the morning doesn't look like much but it makes a difference. I feel better when I meditate for 15 or 20 minutes. On the days I worked too much, meditating before bed for 10 minutes helped me have a better sleep.
  3. Stretching/Yoga/Moving. I need to move in the morning. It doesn't have to be anything intense, but I need something. I got into a trap: I woke up tired, I barely stretched in the morning, and that made me feel worse throughout the day, and then I didn't sleep well and the whole cycle repeated itself. So, I NEED at least 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. It's vital to manage my chronic pain.
  4. Waking up early even on weekends. This one I've been neglecting for a while. But every time I sleep in, I regret it. Especially when I skip my meditation/exercise routine first thing in the morning.
  5. Journaling/Writing things down. I've been feeling too tired to write at all. I want to get back to writing for longer periods of time. To reflect, focus on feelings, scrutinize thoughts, let them go and wander.
  6. Reading. I've been too foggy-minded and tired to get any amount of quality reading done. This weekend I finally could get back to my normal reading habit.

For my work routines, I will focus on the following:

  1. Check e-mail less frequently I check email too often. In fact, I leave the email tab open at ALL TIMES! I recognized that it is extremely anxiety-inducing. It's one of those old habits that are hard to get rid of. So, this will be a mini-goal for next week: Check e-mail in the morning, at noon and by 3 pm.
  2. Protect my time. I want to be less reactive to other people's demands. I believe avoiding checking my Inbox might help with this. Unless it's something high priority my manager is asking, I'll take my time to get back to people.
  3. Time block my Calendar. I'll plan my day in the morning, blocking off deep work sessions to focus. No cheking email, social media, news, messages, whatever during deep work.
  4. Stop working at 5 pm. As recommended by Cal Newport, I will start a shutdown routine at 4:45 pm so that I'm off at 5 pm. It might help to do a brain dump session at the end of the day to externalize all my worries and transition to my evening rest.

Phew, I feel better writing this down.

#journal #noisymusings #work #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in March 2021 (updated)

  1. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, 464p: I didn't need to be convinced that God is a delusion, but it was interesting to follow scientific logic to analyze religion and its inconsistencies. Dawkins builds up the God Hypothesis and my favourite part of the book is then he presents the spectrum of probabilities about the existence of God, ranging from 1 to 7, including for example “Strong Theist”, “Impartial Agnostic” all the way to “Strong Atheist”. I considered myself an agnostic but after reading this book I realized I am “De-facto Atheist ” according to the Dawkins spectrum: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” It is an extremely provoking read. But worth the ride.

  2. Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 625p: After I understood that the “bug people” were actually humanoid and not animal-like, everything made more sense. They are men and women belonging to different groups like ants, beetles, wasps, butterflies, mantis, dragonflies, etc... Each of these groups has different abilities and characteristics. It's exceptional world-building with that good-old Dungeons and Dragons feel. I couldn't put this book down. It's very engaging and I cared about all the characters, even the evil ones. Strong female characters, cool fight scenes, perfect rhythm. I loved it! I will continue reading the series.

  3. A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport, 320p: The concept of the hyperactive hive mind workflow makes sense. It gave me some awareness of this workflow and I can probably adopt one or two minor strategies to deal with it. I don't think any of the major strategies, like office hours or having shared boards at work would work for me, it would require an upper management radical shift at my workplace. Also, it has become clear to me the importance of having clear defined workflows. Cal Newport defines that knowledge work as the combination of two components: work execution and workflow. So workflows that require us to be constantly checking a feed or inbox is inefficient and make us miserable. A better way of working is to have fewer ad hoc, unscheduled, asynchronous conversations. In summary, the book brings suggestions on how to use email very strategically if not at all. It's an interesting discussion. I loved the first part of the book about the history of email.

  4. The Fold (Threshold #2) by Peter Clines, 386p: This was an enjoyable read. It starts with a mystery, the main character has to uncover what is going on with this secret DARPA project involving a teleportation device. But nobody tells him how it works so we follow along with his exceptional visual memory skills trying to find patterns and explanations for some odd phenomena. [It's all very sci-fi/mystery and then the book turns into a sort of horror tale with monsters from other dimensions. Entertaining!

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I love observing the change of seasons. Today my walk looked slightly different. The snow is melting and the downside is that there is still lots of slippery ice on some patches. But the sun is up until 7pm now so no need for the headlight anymore. And the geese and singing birds are back! Signs of Spring!

End of winter feelings

#journal #noisymusings #winter


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I like to have routines. Or, more precisely, I NEED routines to keep myself sane. It is a coping mechanism to tone down my anxiety.

And I love mornings! It's when I have more energy so I figured out a few years ago that taking advantage of my mornings was beneficial to my health. After some experimentation I settled with the following morning routine:

  1. Wake-up at 5:30am: jump out of bed (I leave my alarm across the bedroom so that I have to get up to turn if off).
  2. Bathroom stop: Splash some water on my face, empty my bladder.
  3. Drink a cup of water with my stomach medication.
  4. Grab my headphones and phone, unroll my yoga mat on the living room floor.
  5. Do a 10 or 15 minutes meditation (I've been using the Calm app.
  6. Stretch/exercise: I alternate between a basic 15 min bodyweight routine or 15-30min of Yoga, depending on the day. Some days I need a slow Hatha yoga session focusing on stretching, some days it's a Vinyasa Flow or body weight exercises (focus on the core). I've been using the app DownDog for yoga and I love it.
  7. Put my yoga mat away and start preparing breakfast. I keep my breakfast lowcarb, usually an omelet with tea.
  8. Eat breakfast, clean dishes, pack my snacks for the day.
  9. Take a bath/brush my teeth/dress/get-ready-to-leave.

I'm usually out the door by 7:40am. It's enough for me to get to work at 8am. I live close to my workplace.

The above list is for the ideal day. Some days are not perfect, and I end up meditating for 10 minutes and doing some quick stretches for 5 minutes. Some days I spend more time chatting with my partner (and skipping a Yoga session) before I leave.

The most important thing to make a routine like this work is: go to bed early the day before! I have to be in bed by 9:45pm otherwise I'll loose sleep time and then I'll be exhausted during the day. When it's 9pm I'm getting into my “slow down” routine, turn off all screens, make sure I packed my lunch for the next day, get into my pajamas and read until I am ready to sleep.

I'm happy with my routine right now. I'm learning not to be too harsh on myself. There are good days and bad days. I have struggled with back pain for many years and I must keep some kind of stretching/warming up exercise in the morning. I need to move a little in the morning. And meditation helps me calm down my “monkey mind”.

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, my morning routine was disrupted, I started having terrible back pain again, I couldn't sleep well because of the pain and therefore I didn't have energy for my morning routine. I felt sleepy and sluggish all day. I started a Chiropractic treatment for my back pain and by the end of last year I felt I could get back to Yoga and my sleep was not being interrupted with discomfort (aka pain). Better sleep meant better rest, more energy, no pain during the day (or night) and overall well being. This Spring, I want to get back to running!

#noisymusings #journal #routine


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in February 2021 It was a difficult month for reading for me! I had to actively remind myself: “Hey, you have books to read, why don't you let go of that shiny screen and grab your e-reader”? I just felt I was reading slower than I used to. That knee jerk reaction to stop reading and check something on my phone instead showed up a lot. I'll keep on working on my reading focus.

  1. The Outside (The Outside #1) by Ada Hoffmann, 401p: I enjoyed the word building. I wanted to keep reading to find out what the Outside was. And I wanted to know more about the AI Gods. I realized in the middle of the book that it had inspiration from Lovecraft with all the Outside creatures and the “outside madness” condition. It was creepy to think that Artificial Intelligent quantum computers, that were created by humans, came up with a technological religious authoritarian system to control humans.
  2. A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1) by Arkady Martine, 454p: This one had a Dune feel to it. Planets, Space Stations, alien threats, Artificial Intelligence running an entire City, neurological implants, a murder mystery and political intrigues. The pace was slower than I'm used to but it managed to keep me interested enough to pick up the book at every opportunity I had. It's heavy on world building but it is executed in a very clever way through the eyes of the protagonist Mahit Dzmare. She goes to the City at the heart of the Empire of Teixcalaan as an Ambassador to her original home, the Lsel Station. Teixcalaan's culture and language is heavily influenced by poetry being a sophisticated place with lots of social norms. This book has that intellectual appeal without being boring.
  3. How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow, 146p. This a free book available on Medium. Interesting discussion on the status of Big Tech disputing the assumption that tech companies can and will regulate themselves to fix the Internet. Can we fix Big Tech companies that dominate our Internet or can we fix it by ourselves, free of the Big Tech influence? One of the main points discussed by the author is monopoly. His point is: Monopoly enables mass scale surveillance. Food for thought.

“Surveillance capitalism is the result of monopoly. Monopoly is the cause, and surveillance capitalism and its negative outcomes are the effects of monopoly”. — Cory Doctorow

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

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